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    Early watercolor of Fort Davis

    Arthur Tracy Lee Watercolor "Capt. Jordan's Quarters." Finished watercolor on paper showing a small wooden cabin at the base of a hill with a ramshackle fence in the foreground and other buildings and rocky hills in the background. Several figures populate the view. Signed at lower right in pencil: "A.T. Lee." Fort Davis, undated. 9.5" x 12.5". Accompanied by a slip of paper on which is noted: "Found among Gen. Johnston's papers: endorsed: Capt. Jordan's quarters.'" The watercolor is affixed to a nineteenth-century scrapbook leaf on the verso of which is pasted a contemporary oval portrait of General Joseph E. Johnston (7.75" x 6") with imprint and title: "Published by S.C. McIntyre. Genl. Joseph E. Johnson [sic]. C.S.A. Copy right secured" (portrait fine except for a few spots). Lower left corner chipped, a few closed tears (no losses), some light spotting, edges slightly darkened, otherwise very good. Framed to an overall size of 14.25" x 17".

    The watercolor depicts a building at the first Fort Davis, established in 1854 and in existence until 1862, when it was occupied by Confederate forces. The original fort was an important outpost for protecting emigrant trains on their way to California and other points west and for defending the area against hostile Native Americans. Fort Davis fell into complete disrepair and was replaced by a second, larger Fort Davis after the Civil War (1867). The building depicted in this painting was apparently in existence by 1857 and was occupied by Captain Charles Downer Jordan (d. 1876), who was stationed at the post from 1860 until it was abandoned at the beginning of the Civil War. Artist Arthur T. Lee was also stationed at Fort Davis, which he helped found, between 1854 and September of 1858, when he left to establish Fort Quitman.

    Arthur T. Lee (1814-1879) was a U.S. Army officer, portrait painter in oils, watercolorist, poet, musician, essayist, historian, landscape architect, engineer, and administrator. He was stationed at various posts in Texas for about twelve years after having previously served in the Mexican-American War and various Native American removals. He was transferred to Texas in 1848 and was captured by the Confederates in San Antonio while trying to leave Texas. He went to fight in the Civil War and was seriously wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg. It is believed that many of his watercolors were finished in his retirement and were based on pencil sketches he made earlier on the scene. Although it is uncertain how this watercolor ended up in the possession of Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston, it seems possible that Lee might have met Johnston on the latter's 1849 reconnaissance mission through western Texas, which passed through old Fort Davis.

    An excellent example of an early Texas view rendered by an accomplished, eyewitness artist who was there when Fort Davis was founded. In 1961, the majority of Arthur T. Lee's paintings and art work were bequeathed by his sole descendant to three institutions in Rochester, New York: The Rochester Historical Society, the Rush Rhees Library of the University of Rochester, and the Rochester Museum and Science Center. Lee's art work is not generally available on the market.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    March, 2011
    12th Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,249

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